A long time ago, 1977 to be precise, Luke Skywalker ignited his father's lightsaber for the very first time, cementing the weapon of a Jedi Knight in pop culture. Now, thirty-eight years on, Mark Hamill is the same age as Alec Guinness, five more movies have been and gone and the lightsaber is still as iconic as it was back then. Everyone and anyone can recognise it, having become synonymous with the Star Wars franchise, but there's more to this glorified glowstick than meets the eye.
1. The Color Has A Specific Meaning
What?! And there was me thinking the Jedi just picked out their favorite from a choice of four and went along on their merry way.
Turns out a Jedi's role within the order was displayed through their blade color, and the range of available hues stretched much farther than the blue, green and purple variations seen in the movies.
Blue blades were given to Jedi Guardians, who made use of their lightsabers over force powers. They were pretty much the equivalent to Jedi soldiers, defending the helpless and attacking Sith. Their saber skills were second to none and began their sword trainign at a very young age.
Green blades were usually wielded by the polar opposite, the Jedi Consulars. Consulars focused less on swordplay and more on the peaceful aspect of the force, training themselves in the arts of telekinesis and meditation rather than combat.
Which brings us to Yellow and Orange blades, which belonged to Jedi Sentinels. Introduced in Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Sentinels formed the bridge between Guardians and Consulars, balancing force and lightsaber skill equally rather than focusing on a particular skill. They also practice espionage, rivalling the skills of even the most notorious bounty hunters.
Purple blades were first officially introduced in the 1990s when the character of Mara Jade was depicted wielding one. As far as Star Wars lore goes, purple blades appear to be custom made, wielded by both light and dark side users. They are supposedly one of the least common natural blade colors, as the crystals needed to create them are extremely rare.
Red blades, often associated with the dark side of the force, are rarely seen outside of the Sith order. Red lightsabers have been known to be unstable and are usually avoided, unless of course, you don't have access to anything else. Red crystals are not naturally found and have to be created artificially. This explains the excessive usage by the Sith, as the planet where the crystals are grown, Ilum, is under strict Republic control, making retrieval impossible for dark side users.
As well as these colors, there have also been Bronze, Silver, Gold, Black and White lightsabers featured at various points in the franchise, however usually with only one or two appearances each.
2. They Aren't All Swords
Yes, it's true. Throughout Star Wars, predominantly in the Legends series, other types of lightsaber have appeared, such as:
The Lightwhip, used by Lumiya during the Legacy Era, has since become a fan favorite. There isn't much to say on it really; it's pretty self explanatory. Here's a picture of it in action instead.
The Lightsaber Pike was often the weapon of choice for Jedi Sentinels. Its length and weight made it a considerable threat and could also be thrown like a spear and retrieved, presumably using the force.
The Lightclub was another variation, similar to the Dual Phase Lightsaber. Both had blades that could reach lengths of over nine feet long and were often reserved for Jedi of a larger species. Lightclubs were especially lethal due to their weight and wide blade.
The Guard Shoto, featured in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, had an unusual hilt that set it apart from other blades. As well as a regular lightsaber handle, it also sported one perpendicular to the blade, allowing the wielder to use it as if it were an extension of their own arm.
And finally, the one that seems to have caused the most controversy recently, the Cross-Guard Lightsaber. Need I say more?
3. Lightsabers Weren't Originally Meant To Have Colors
Yep. It wasn't until George Lucas decided his effects sucked that he decided to animate them instead, adding colors just at the last minute. Originally, the swords were meant to just reflect the stage lighting to give the impression that they were in fact glowing, but one look at those shaky mirrors and George scrapped the whole thing. In the end, they were animated in post production, with all the good guys having blue blades and the bad guys having red.
Until Return of the Jedi, of course.
Once again, George wanted to take the easy way out and opted for blue again instead of expanding his palette. But after footage of Luke wielding blue against the Tatooine sky left poor old George disappointed at the lack of contrast, he added green to the roster. Sorry guys, no exciting Jedi mythos behind it; George just didn't like how blue looked against the backdrop.
And then the prequels came about, and Samuel L. Jackson found himself in lightsaber training in preparation for Attack of the Clones. When asked what colour he wanted, Jackson answered with his favorite colour, purple. Seriously, go back and watch some of his movies and I can guarantee in most of them he has something purple as part of his costume. At first, George wasn't convinced, but after a little of the Jackson treatment...
...George allowed him his purple lightsaber. And boy, was it awesome...